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Sumacs are found throughout the world in one species or another. In North America, the genus Rhus is divided into two subgenera: the poisonous and the nonpoisonous. They are sometimes inaccurately and collectively called red sumac. Any of these, but especially the staghorn sumac, may be used to make a fairly decent wine.

The staghorn sumac derives its name from the countless, tiny hairs that resemble the tines of a deer’s antlers covering its branches. Its fruit grow at the terminus of new growth in very large, upright bunches of small, red berries. These small fruit are covered with red hairs and filled with a sour juice, rich in malic acid and tannin. Fruit should be gathered soon after turning red, as the longer they remain on the bush, the more tasteless they become. Fully ripe staghorn sumac should taste sour.

NOTE: Do not extract juice with boiling or hot water or else too much tannin will be extracted and the resulting wine will taste astringent and bitter.

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